Tuesday, September 6, 2011
I read this book right after I finished Mr. Chartwell and they complimented each other well. As explained in my previous review, the first book is about depression and is fictional, but quite unique and rather funny. It is a story about how much we can or cannot control depression in our lives. By far the best book I've read in a long, long time.
My Stroke of Insight is a non-fiction book written by a brain-scientist who actually has a stroke and lives to tell about it. Not just lives, but thrives and is able, over a long period of time, to come to understand what happened in her brain and then explain it to the reader. It is fascinating! The detailed description of how the stroke starts to effect her is scary and intriguing all in one. How she struggles to get help is miraculous. I personally appreciated very much her discussion of her long and difficult recovery and found it very true and personal to me about what things helped her recovery and what things hindered it. Been there, done that! And I also have to say that Taylor's amazing mother that helps her through every step of her recovery reminds me of my own. There is nothing quite like a strong mother to literally work miracles when you need them most.
And finally, after she goes through her own personal experience, she then lays out a fascinating discussion about the left brain and right brain and how the work together and separately. She brings science into the realm of PMA (positive mental attitude), spirituality, and creativity, and describes how we can actually use our brains to help ourselves be better people. She makes it clear that we really can control our thoughts and our actions and our brain a lot more than we think we can. Yet she also praises the amazing strength of the human brain and recognizes that we have a lot more to learn and that we cannot control everything.
I found her science very accessible for a non-logical reader like myself, and the diagrams and pictures were helpful. Taylor also included a couple of extremely helpful lists, two of which I think everyone should check out. The first simply listed the signs of when someone is having a stroke so that they can get help faster. Here it is, so you will know:
S = Speech, or problems with language
T = Tingling, or numbness in your body
R = Remember, or problems with thinking
O = Off-balance, or problems with coordination
K = Killer headache
E = Eyes, or problems with vision
The second list was even more important to me. It was called "40 Things I Needed the Most" and it laid out the things that she found most helpful for recovery. Having been through numerous surgeries and in and out of hospital settings, I found this list to be very true and should be read by anyone visiting a hospital, nursing home, or someone recovering at home. A couple of the items on the list that I especially agreed with are these:
1. Please don't raise your voice—I'm not deaf, I'm wounded.
2. Honor the healing power of sleep.
3. Speak to me directly, not about me to others. (this should apply to doctors and nurses especially)
4. Remember that in the absence of some functions, I have gained other abilities.
5. Call in the troops! Create a healing team for me. Send word out to everyone so they can send me love. Keep them abreast of my condition and ask them to do specific things to support me
6. Approach me with an open heart and slow your energy down. Take your time.
7. Make eye contact with me
8. Trust that I am trying—just not with your skill level or on your schedule.
This is a rare and fascinating book where science, miracles, spirituality, and the brain all come together to form a wonderfully inspiring read, and its all true!
Thursday, September 1, 2011
A lot of depth is packed into this simple-looking book. The story is set in the medieval times and is about a young girl who is an orphan and unloved by everyone. She eventually is taken in and becomes the midwife's apprentice, learning who she is in the process.
What I love about this book, and which is obviously why it won the Newbery Medal, is that it really puts you into the time and place it is set. The descriptions are visceral and thick with wonderful imagery, both of the beauty and the darkness of the times. I felt like I could literally touch and walk right into the meadows and cottages. The main character is the same way, a very authentic feeling girl who does not know where she fits in. The language she and the characters use also feels true to the times. Not once does the book fall into any sort of a trite or romanticized way of looking at the world it portrays.
At times I am grateful for a book like this because it is a breath of fresh air from the complicated, dark, and romance-laden children/young adult books that are all the rage now. A small and honest story that nevertheless can be told in any time and age - the story of a young girl learning that she too is of worth in the world.